Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali were both showboaters. Which of them was the better fighter?

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by mark ant, Apr 26, 2021.

  1. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jan 4, 2008

    Hard. Leonard was more complete, as many have mentioned, but peak Ali was a physical freak to go along with his boxing IQ and will to win. I would have to go with Ali, because in his prime he was always able to impose his game plan on the opponent. Leonard didn't manage to against Duran in their first fight. A bit harsh perhaps, but since they're so close that's the difference maker for me.


    Again a close call. Both have great top wins, but Leonard's best four trumps Ali's best four, I'd say. But I also value consistency highly, and Ali more or less cleaned out two generations of contenders while you at best can give Leonard one. He aslo defended his undisputed title many, many more times (Leonard only did once, right?) and I put a lot of value in defences, since the challenger often is going to be more motivated than the champion. It's a different kind of pressure compared to taking on a huge challenge which no one expects you to pull off, and Ali excelled in both aspects where as Leonard really only excelled in one of them. Therefore I go with Ali here as well.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
  2. THE BLADE 2

    THE BLADE 2 Boxing Junkie Full Member

    Jul 14, 2009
  3. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Why do so many feel the need to disparage one of the fighters in threads like these? Why just not - "they were both friggin' awesome, but I just think x was better"?
  4. fists of fury

    fists of fury Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Oct 25, 2006
    Good post.
    What I'll say regarding defences is that while Ali did indeed make many defences, some were really just filler. Guys like London, Coopman, Wepner, Evangelista etc. were pretty weak. Most others were merely decent.
    While he didn't, there's no doubt Leonard could have defended against equivalent competition at 147 and reigned for a long time.
    The detached retina and years out no doubt robbed him of some of his best years. That said, Ali was also robbed of maybe his best years.
    Ali did have greater longevity to give him just due.
    Leonard had the greater peaks though.
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  5. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    I think history has shown us time and time again that it's not a foregone conclusion that a champion always will beat clearly inferior contenders. For him it's just another night, but for them it's a chance to forever change their lives. That's why I'm impressed by many defences as such - especially when you're defending the undisputed HW title, the richest prize in sports. You will have to struggle through off nights and niggling injuries against many different styles and guys that are super motivated and in the best shape of their lives.

    And while Ali had fillers he also defended against main-stay contenders such as Folley, Chuvalo, Cooper, Terrell, Lyle, Bugner, Norton, Shavers and Young as well as champions such as Liston, Patterson and Frazier. And beat Moore, Jones, Quarry, Bonavena, Ellis and MacFoster in non-title fights, so he really cleaned house even though he was lucky with some decisions in his later years.
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  6. JohnThomas1

    JohnThomas1 Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Apr 27, 2005
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  7. Unforgiven

    Unforgiven Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Nov 24, 2005
    I'd rate Ali in the top 2 at heavyweight.
    A lot of people do rate Leonard at #2 as a welterweight but I'd have him a bit lower than that.
    Ali takes this.
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  8. Man_Machine

    Man_Machine Boxing Addict Full Member

    Jun 9, 2010
    Ali is in my Top-10 P4P Greatest of All Time.
    Leonard is not.
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  9. fists of fury

    fists of fury Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Oct 25, 2006
    That's fair.
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  10. White Bomber

    White Bomber Well-Known Member Full Member

    Mar 31, 2021
    Him being better at slipping is very debatable.
    First of all, we must take into account the fact that Ray was fighting much faster opposition. Overall, WW boxers are way faster than HWs.
    Guys like Duran, Hearns, Benitez etc are clearly faster than guys like Liston, Foreman, Chuvalo, Lyle etc, so slipping the shots of the first group is a lot harder.
    But even if we assume as a fact that Ali was better as slipping shots, he wasn't cause he was more skilled/technical, but rather due to his incredible reflexes. Ali leaned back, a thing that is not the proper way/textbook to avoid shots. No boxing instructor will ever teach you to lean back to avoid shots. That is the reason Ali was getting hit so much in his latter years. Compare him to someone like Toney, Whitaker, Mayweather, and you'll will see an obvious difference.
    Ali is not a good example of a technical boxer, but rather a good example of someone very gifted who somehow makes it work.
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  11. Stevie G

    Stevie G Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jul 17, 2009
    Very healthy attitude,Bokaj. Both of these guys merit respect.
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  12. young griffo

    young griffo Boxing Addict Full Member

    May 18, 2006
    Great call.
    Two magnificent fighters. I think Ali was better/greater but hell SRL was awesome too!
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  13. Flash24

    Flash24 Boxing Addict Full Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    Some on this site have for whatever reason passionate hate for certain fighters like Leonard, and Cooney. especially Leonard it seems. Theirs always this "yea but" attitude with him . You know
    "Yea but" Benitez didn't train , "Yea but" Duran had a stomach ache". Yea but" Hearns was green" Yeah but He had a tough time with Kalule . Yeah but he ran from Hagler.
    While others get a pass , and seem to walk on water. No one questions Carlos Monzon may have been given a gift decision against Briscoe in Argentina, or the most accomplished fighters he faced were natural welterweights on the small side who were past prime.
    Or Dempsey didn't fight the best fighters available during his era,
    Or Louis did loose by ko in the prime of his career,
    Etc , etc. That type of scrutinizing can be done with any fighter
    in history if one takes the time to focus only on the negative,
    omitting the positives for personal dislikes.
  14. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    My favourite ever among dumb things to say, I mean ever, is that Leonard was the one who disgraced himself in New Orleans. That is one true feat of distorting reality. :)

    Yeah, on the one hand you have what you said above. Just such a thing as criticising Leonard's performance against Kalule. He went up one weight class to face a tricky champion as a friggin' keep busy-fight ahead of Hearns, won by emphatic KO while ahead on the cards and it shows his weaknesses? Come on. Those that say that must not know that Kalule would go on to beat Kalambay. And Leonard also had "lot of weaknesses"? You just never stop being amazed at times on this forum.

    A typical dog whistle when it comes to showing one's dislike for Ali is the ol' "he got a lot of gifts". For one thing, as you say, most greats have some controversial wins, often in their prime. Ali's main ones came when he was in his mid 30's and fairly washed up. So if you keep bringing them up, one also get a pretty clear idea why you call them "gifts" instead of just controversial wins. To say that Ali's legacy hinges on gifts is just not true, so if you tote this line you show your colours fairly well.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021
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  15. Toney F*** U

    Toney F*** U Boxing junkie Full Member

    Oct 16, 2019
    You can’t really compare a great heavyweight’s skill set to a great lower division fighter’s. The op should’ve mentioned that they’re both wife beaters as well
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2021